History of Science Collection

The Library holds one of the best collections of rare printed science, technology, and engineering works in the world.

History of Science Collection

The distinguished History of Science collection contains over 50,000 volumes of essential works documenting the histories of science and of early modern intellectual thought. The 1472 printing of Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia is the collection’s oldest title. Other notable volumes include Rheticus' Narratio Prima (1540), Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543), and one of the few extant copies of Galileo’s Siderius Nuncius (1610). Recent acquisitions have emphasized works by or about women in science including I Secreti della Signora Isabella Cortese (1635), and the seventeenth century manuscript volume documenting the highly unusual for its time scientific education of a French adolescent, Susanne-Victoire Auvray.

The special collections at Linda Hall Library existed at the time of opening in 1946. We acquired the library of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which included titles that provided a foundation for the rare book collection. The transfer of the Engineering Societies Library in 1995 provided the Library with hundreds of additional early books on engineering, mathematics, physics, geology, and related sciences, as well as the Ball Collection of Gemology. Recent additions of note include the observation logs and journals of astronomer David Levy and the A.B. Nichols Panama Canal Collection.


Accessing the Collection

Special collections at the Linda Hall Library are open by appointment to all readers whose work requires use of materials in the collection. The History of Science Rare Book Room is open 10:00 am until 4:45 pm Monday through Friday. Please complete the History of Science Reading Room Appointment Request Form to schedule an appointment at least 48 hours in advance. The latest available appointment time is 3:45 p.m. Readers are encouraged to acquaint themselves with the Library’s holdings and to gather preliminary information needed to identify and locate materials relevant to their work by searching the library catalog. Staff are available for reference consultations by request.

Classes seeking a presentation with rare books from our collection should complete the Rare Book Session Request Form, which details the requirements for arranging a rare book presentation. One-month advance notice is required.